After a week of being in that mostly very nice budget hotel box in the Old City, dealing with smoke and smog induced headaches and feeling stir crazy, the week since then has been little short of bliss. It has also convinced me that it’s time to get outta Dodge.
(Side note: why does my spell checker think that “outta” is Ok? I mean, I was going to use it regardless, sure. But, my gods, have some standards! At least warn me of my reckless abandon! What, can I start spelling anything, anyway, and using it to mean whatever? That is literallyxztbargle the worst thing I can imagine!)
(Side side note: at least it caught “literallyxztbargle”, though I’m not sure if that’s better or worse. Would I rather have a non-working spell checker, or one with no standards? All right, all right, no standards is better. But I’m still writing a strongly worded letter to somebody, by gods!)
All right, let’s get started.
Living In Places:
So, at the end of my last post, a week ago, I was on the last full day of my stay at CMStay and feeling a bit better but really looking forward to moving to the B2 Black hotel in western Chiang Mai, which I’d passed many mornings on my way to breakfast at Coffee Monster. I was really done with the budget room I’d stayed in, and really just wanted some serious creature comforts, so I booked the Presidential Suite, ($40/night), which is on the top, 8th floor and has a patio/balcony where I plan to relax and read and enjoy a real honest to gosh view. Friday, I packed everything up by 1:30 pm, got on my motorbike, and headed to B2.
I arrived easily, checked in (the staff barely spoke English, but that wasn’t a problem), and my room was, in fact, as awesome as advertised.
I’m going to try to upload a video of the place to Youtube, and if that works, it will be below. (Note: about 3:30 in, I say that we’re looking east towards Doi Suthep mountain; I meant west.)
I scaled down the resolution quite a bit, but the file is still about 255MB, and the Youtube page is predicting a 5 hour upload for a 4.5 minute video, so we’ll see how it goes. If it doesn’t work, I’ll have to bail and upload a bunch of stills.
(Yaaay, it worked!)
Anyway, as you can (hopefully) see, it’s a nice room and it can have one hell of a view. I’ve got a still of the view when the air was clear. Ish.
I had to rearrange the furniture a little, to create a desk in front of the window. There’s a makeup desk right under one of the two (two!) airconditioners, but there was no way I was spending hours under that draft, and now I have a view while I’m online! Yaaaay! Sitting here, looking out at this, I’m reminded how much I like a sense of space in my living arrangements. I like comfortable, enclosing, supporting spaces, like my ground-floor condo in Venice with the small patio, but my ideal is a proper view, preferably of something green or watery or both. I realize that this makes me unique in the world, and most people abhor views… but I’m a rebel, man, and I don’t care who knows it.
Another great thing about this place is that the WiFi is pretty solid, good enough to play ESO most of the time (except the evening, when everyone’s back in their rooms). And when it does give me trouble, I’m actually right above the Coffee Monster, where I used to eat every morning when I was staying at Sang Serene, and their WiFi signal is perfectly clear. So I eat a full breakfast down there in the morning, and play ESO for 2-4 hours, then come up to my room and do internet, research my next place to stay, watch Youtube, etc. There’s a tiny bit of traffic noise from the Canal Road, but it’s really negligible. I can have oatmeal and fruit at lunch, and tuna and cheese at dinner, and other stuff as desired. The first night I was here, I woke in the middle of the night to see the full moon shining in on me. This is by far the best place I’ve stayed at yet.
Of course, that being said, there’s still a breathing problem. The first couple of days I was here, the air was rather more clear and my lungs were fine (a little feeling of pressure in them, but not much). But then on Monday I had an errand on the east side of the city and, while it was an enjoyable ride, I started to feel headachey after I got back. I managed to clear it, and I was fine the next day; but I’m pretty sure it was the added car exhaust that did it. So I’ve been mostly staying inside ever since. And then the smoke in the air got worse again and, while I’m still not headachey, the lungs feel heavier, my eyes are a little burny, and it’s really not great.
Which leads me to the Next Phase…
I Can’t Wait To Get On The Road Again:
I’m getting out of town and going to Surat Thani and Koh Samui on the southern peninsula of Thailand, at least until early May. Here’s the itinerary…
Friday the 13th — AAAAAAAAHHHHHH! — I get on a 4pm, 1st class, sleeper train bound for Bangkok, change trains there in the morning, and continue another 9 hours or to Surat Thani. My first sleeper train ever! I’ve only read and watched movies about them so far… from which I can expect that, at some point, there must be a horrifically violent murder on the train. I mean, it’s a sleeper train on Friday the 13th! Come on!
Assuming that I’m not the victim, and that the local police don’t hold me over for questioning, then Saturday and Sunday night I stay in a hotel in Surat Thani, the Princess Park Hotel. It’s muslim run, interestingly, and serves halal food; after the murder on the train, I may look suspicious heading straight to a Known Muslim Establishment, but… Hey, there goes Elvis!
(Gods, remember when all of those people were attractive and awesome? Well, at least a few of them still are.)
Then on Monday, the 16th, I take a taxi to an Airbnb place I’m staying at in nearby Khanom, here. Right on the ocean (yes, worriers, I’ll keep an eye out for hurricanes and tsunami warnings), I’m looking forward to swimming twice a day. What’s less certain is how good the WiFi is: I asked the owner, emphasizing that I needed good internet, and she said, “I don’t know, it’s Ok I guess.” So, I can probably read Twitter without a problem, but it remains to be seen if I can watch much Youtube, much less play ESO. Fingers crossed on that one. It’s a little out of the way, but there are a couple of places nearby to get food, and it will do.
The following Monday, the 23rd, I take a taxi to a ferry that takes me to the island of Koh Samui, where I am staying for over a month, here! It’s a house on the beach, with an ethernet connection in addition to WiFi, and a proper kitchen, and I don’t have to go anywhere for aaaaages. I’ll swim in the ocean, play Elder Scrolls, post lots of Nice Places To Sit and Read, walk to places nearby for food, and cook food myself. (Baked potatoes! Simple brown rice! Cannot wait.) It will cost me about $1,000 (basically, $920/month), which sits comfortably at the high end of my target range and will suit me just fine.
I’m staying there until April 27th, and then I’m going to go someplace across the border for my 90-day exit/reentry ritual that needs to happen by April 30th. I might go to Kuala Lumpur for a week, in Malaysia, or possibly Cambodia, Burma, or Vietnam. I have no idea, and I don’t have to decide that now. Which is pretty awesome, ’cause I’m really tired of planning stuff.
And that’s where we are. Or, rather, will be. Shortly.
I’ve talked (emailed) with Assist Thai Visa about my situation, and Rhys, the British expat who runs it, says, “No, really, I can get you a bank account no problem.” He can help me get the retirement visa, and also get me expat health insurance. I’m taking him up on the latter (following up with one of his employees). For the visa part, I’m going to wait to apply for the retirement visa in May or June so that, when (if) I renew it next year, I’ll be able to do it in May or June also. If I got it in early-mid April, I’d have to come back here to get it renewed during the smoky season. I guar an tee that I am not going to be in Chiang Mai during the smoky season next year. Nu uh, no way, no how.
By the time I have the new visa, there’s only going to be 4 months or so before I think of coming back to the states for a November/December visit, so there’s no point in getting a longer term home lease. So I’ll stay in hotels or Airbnb places until then, and then look at renting here in January maybe. Or come back here for Jan/Feb, go elsewhere for the smoky season, come back in May and rent for 6 months. Something like that. We’ll see.
It’s kind of weird: I’d been thinking, “Hey, I’m going nomad! Except not really, because I’m going to move the Chiang Mai and immediately settle.” But that’s not the way it’s been working out, and it looks like it might continue to not be that way for some time. So the nomad concept might be the one that sticks after all. Which is kind of cool. 🙂
I really haven’t hung out with anyone in a bit. I missed last week’s Socrates Cafe meeting because of being headachey, and I skipped this one’s also because I didn’t want to drive over to it and get another dose of car exhaust and get headachey again. And now I’m leaving town. So, I guess I’ll connect back with them when I return.
Thankfully, I’ve had the Coffee Monster cafe right next door, and it’s slowly on its way to becoming my new Cheers. (If Cheers was populated by transients who mostly just stare at their computers, and who drink coffee in the morning instead of beer at night. But the Sam and Diane analogs are nice, and they count.) Of course, now I’m leaving…. But I’m wondering how close to Coffee Monster I can stay when I come back. I’m not sure I can justify a long term residence in B2’s Presidential Suite, but maybe there will be a short term rental in walking distance. Fingers crossed on that one.
Nice Places to Sit And Read:
About time I had another one of these, am I right? You’ve seen the nice place now. Here’s the thing read, Clariel: The Lost Abhorsen.
Garth Nix is an Australian writer who writes a lot of YA fantasy novels, and they’re always great, but the Abhorsen series is really excellent. If you’ve never read the first of them, Sabriel, I really cannot recommend it highly enough. (I think it was Brandon who first suggested it to me.) It features a world which has magic north of The Wall, and science (a la early 20th century England) south of The Wall; in a dangerous time, a young lady currently being schooled south of The Wall has inherited the mantle of the Abhorsen, who controls the excesses of Free Magic creatures and banishes the raised dead, and then must deal with Events that are in Motion. It’s something you don’t often see in YA fantasy: original concepts. And it’s super well written with engaging characters.
Clariel is the 4th book in the series. I liked it, but I think it’s the weakest of the 4, possibly because the character is a kind of whiny teenager and her weaknesses so clearly lead to her Big Problems that I found myself getting impatient. The best and most interesting characters are around her, and I really wanted to be reading more about them. (Of course, people who spend time with Actual Teenagers may find this perfectly realistic and quite possibly cathartic.) I also felt like the book would have done better to be longer, it felt a little too much like it was just running through the plot points. (This may sound like, “The food was terrible, and the portions were too small.” But I do think it needed more time for what it tried to pack in.) Lastly, this book had fewer new concepts than the previous ones and was really just exploring a spot in the history of the land and cosmology already well established in the previous books, so it didn’t have the “ooo, wow” effect to carry it through the any weak spots.
But, if you’ve read the previous 3 books — and you really should, they’re fantastic — then you’d want to pick this one up just to get a bit more of that world. Don’t expect to have your mind blown, and you’ll enjoy it.
Well, that’s going to do it for now. I’ll probably post again once I’m in that beach place in Khanom, after Monday. Unless I’m in jail on suspicion of having committed a horrible train murder, in which case my Nice Place To Sit And Read will be a cell reading the daily log of scratch marks on the wall and it will have to go undescribed except to my Thai lawyer, who probably won’t speak English. (So much great art goes unappreciated in its creator’s lifetime.)
Bye for now.